I don’t know how to review stand up comedy. I can’t exactly do a joke by joke dissection, because then everyone dies – the joke most of all.
I will start by saying that Louis CK’s Australian accent is atrocious: “tonight’s perfarmence”. It was really hard to place what he was trying to do with his voice, and that was apparently what he was going for when he introduced his first support act, a nervous but funny ringer from Melbourne whose name I didn’t catch.
The second support was the established comic Tom Gleeson, who I didn’t think was as funny. He had a more consistent feel and was less awkward than his predecessor, but his style of comedy was in line with the “happily married with no children” school and that’s not something I can strictly identify with.
Did you know that married couples have sex, but not in the same way the freewheeling young folk do? Did you know that the Australian middle class talks about nothing but goddamn real estate? Tom Gleeson will tell you all about it!
On to Louis C.K., who is the important part: man is dynamite. He came on stage to say that it was first time in Australia, and we might know him from Youtube, or from stealing his TV show. But we couldn’t steal the ticket to tonight: “You paid for that! That’s right in my pocket!”
C.K. is one of those special comedians who can appear off the cuff even if he’s not necessarily doing so; if he’s done the bit about an effeminate God creating flowers while his disapproving room mate looks on before, I don’t want to know about it.
If C.K. had a set in mind, one that he wanted to slavishly stick to, it didn’t really come across that way. I still haven’t forgiven Dylan Moran for performing substantively the same material for me a year apart, and Bill Bailey reused a few bits with a couple of years separation while openly courting hecklers, it seemed.
Louis C.K. didn’t have to worry about any of that. The closest he came was when he returned for his encore and someone shouted “We love you Louis!” and he told them “No you don’t, you’re just having a good time. You don’t love me.”
C.K. owned the stage, at one point literally walking to the end of it and standing in the curtains to see how much slack his microphone cord would allow him. “I’m wasting your money right now,” he told us, as audience members in the balcony craned over the edge to see him leaning against the wall. That and the ticket bit might make it seem as if he was lording over the audience for having paid to see him, but it didn’t come across like that at all. The night being at the Opera House he seemed suitably humbled that someone could have played violin since four just to get the chance to play at the venue, while all he has to do is talk about fucking the fat he plans to develop “after I’ve driven away all of my loved ones” – and he doesn’t have to share the money with the rest of an orchestra. The level of self-deprecation and shame was just right without being too on the nose.
He briefly had me in tears, talking about the only people who he is bigoted towards (people who go camping with only a tent and a bike) and the special word that he has for them (which is an unfortunate coincidence). Otherwise I was laughing pretty much the whole time, with nothing falling flat – although he did notice that no one thought that “I fucked the wrong woman and had two beautiful kids” was a particularly great line; I think that I just assumed that not every sentence had to provide a laugh, as long as most of them facilitated either future laughs or overall cohesion.
Other bits that particularly got me were his discussion of evolution and the acknowledgement that the only voices he knows how to do are “stereotypical gay man” and “stereotypical seventies black man” and the fact that he talks to himself in these voices at home. His black bee was a delight.
Unlike Gleeson, with whom I couldn’t really identify, I felt that C.K. was speaking to me even when he was talking about marriage, fatherhood and frequent heterosexual intercourse. I even knew what he was talking about when he described deep sleep as a “whore goddess”, speaking in ancient tongues (of which she had forty to fellate him with) and secreting heroin into his penis with her tongue. It’s in the delivery, it’s in the tone, and it’s in the set of the man. I’m not being a cultural cringer in playing favourites here, but C.K. really seems to know how to sell his stuff; he’s an unassuming man and he’s willing to believe that his own material is funny, and to accept that the audience finds it so.
After a brief walk-off, C.K. came back for his encore and wondered what he would say to us, as we’d had enough “dick and cum jokes” for one night. He decided on a story about barely avoiding death, closing the night out on a great note that effectively established four characters and showed that the man is a genuine storyteller rather than a simple joke thrower. There was substance to everything that C.K. said on the Opera House stage; I learned a little something about packing comedy, and damn if I didn’t have a great time.